Matthias Merges has found his way to Wicker Park. The chef/restaurateur behind Billy Sunday and Yusho—and the menus at The Finch Kitchen and Old Irving Brewing—has added two more feathers to his cap. Over the summer, Merges and Folkart Restaurant Management, according to Chicago, have taken over two Division Street spots: Buck’s and the Bedford.
If Jay Z and Beyoncé ever return to Buck’s, they and other diners won’t notice many changes to the food, but there will be changes to the decor. The concepts and menus at both restaurants will remain more-or-less intact, with executive chef Mike Galen running both kitchens. Merges has already added kegged cocktails to both spots, as operators laud premixed drinks which can serve big crowds faster and more efficiently. That could be a boon at The Bedford where weekend crowds can gum things up.
Buck’s and The Bedford (which are right down the street from each other) were owned by the same Minneapolis-based group. Last December, Buck’s debuted, as that ownership rebooted the former concept—Carriage House—by changing names and the decor while making the menu more casual. They wanted to grab more of a nighttime crowd after peering through their windows and constantly seeing Bangers & Lace busy right across the street. The Bedford, a former bank at Division and Ashland (the vault’s still there), will also get a new look thanks to Merges’ wife, designer Rachel Crowl.
UPDATE: Merges called back and clarified they haven't purchased the spots. They have reached an operational agreement for both restaurants. The agreement also includes an ownership stake. They'll unfurl the design changes over the holidays.
"There are a few pieces that we would love to see in our group, and Wicker Park is one of those pieces," Merges said. "River North is another piece that we're looking at as we grow our group."